The Mekong River is an awe-inspiring sight, winding thousands of kilometres through Asia, starting in the Himalayan Mountains and depositing into the South China Sea. As the river flows, it acts in some places as a national border, in others as means of trade and transportation. In some places the river is fished heavily, in others the region’s wildlife creates a rich and diverse ecosystem. Wherever on its banks one might be, the Mekong is sure to be a major factor of life for those who live nearby, and one of the best ways to truly appreciate the impact of this waterway is to travel it by boat.
Travelling the Mekong by boat is an unforgettable experience for those who enjoy history. Boat travel on its own recalls a bygone era, far removed from harried airports and long immigration procedures. Instead, traversing the river on a boat is simple and relaxing, and allows one's mind to wander to the original explorers of this region, who sailed these very waters and saw the very same sights one can see their today.
The river is home to an unbelievable amount of wildlife, including rare species such as the Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin, alongside crocodiles and literally thousands of different kinds of fish. Those who travel by boat will also get the opportunity to see incredible natural beauty, such as limestone karst that shoot up out of the river. The impact of man on the region is also easy to see on the river, in the sprinklings of small towns and villages that dot its banks, as well as some major cities (such as Vientiane or Luang Prabang). Many travellers enjoy brief excursions to a local village, as it provides an opportunity to get to do something off the beaten path of the “standard” tourist experiences. Those travelling on the river will also get to see impressive carvings, such as Wat Phou or carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses from ancient kingdoms long overthrown.
The Mekong River is a winding one, and those travelling by boat will experience first-hand the river’s many turns. This means boats must sail slowly, and are often unable to move overnight. Although this might sound frustrating on such a long voyage, the reality is that this is all simply part of the experience, something best taken in and enjoyed instead of resisted. With so much to do and see, there are no dull moments on a Mekong boat cruise.